PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The officer involved in a serious moped crash Sunday night has been placed on administrative duty, according to Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré, as police seek to determine his exact role in the crash.
Providence Police Col. Hugh Clements said the incident occurred while officers were responding to dozens of calls from residents regarding hundreds of off-road vehicles driving through the streets of Providence and several other surrounding communities.
“These vehicles operated in a completely unsafe manner,” Clements said. “Reckless, left of center, maneuvering into oncoming traffic, no regard for others safety…What we do in these events is try to monitor their path and follow them from a safe distance.”
Clements said the officer, who is a six-year veteran of the force, was driving down Elmwood Avenue towards Cranston in a marked police cruiser when the moped in front of the officer took an abrupt right turn, lost control and crashed into a building.
The operator, identified by family members as Portsmouth resident Jhamal Gonsalves, was rushed to the hospital in critical condition.
Police are still investigating whether the officer hit the 24-year-old with his cruiser.
Clements said the officer will remain on administrative leave until the investigation is complete. He also said detectives are reviewing cell phone video taken by witnesses to determine exactly what happened.
“This will be broken down frame by frame, moment by moment,” Clements said. “There will be all sets of eyes on it.”
Mayor Jorge Elorza addressed the incident Monday, promising “a transparent and complete investigation” into the crash.
Elorza also called the excessive number of off-road vehicles on city streets a public safety concern.
“That’s when you see them even more emboldened and that’s when you see them take on even riskier and riskier activities for themselves, and for anyone else who happens to be out on the road,” Elorza said. “So absolutely it is a major, major public safety challenge and it’s one that we’re going to continue to address with all of the tools that we have.”
Gonsalves’ family members tell 12 News he is currently in a coma. His mother, Tia Tribble, said he is suffering from severe swelling to the head and internal bleeding.
“He didn’t commit a big crime,” she said. “He was just out riding with a bunch of friends.”
Gonsalves’ fiancé, Kendra Thibault, tells 12 News he had a passion for Motocross.
“He’s a ball of energy,” Thibault said. “He always has to be doing something, being active. This is literally what he loved.”
“I’ve been with him the past nine years and it’s weird not having him with me right now,” she continued.
Gonsalves’ family is now asking for the community to pray for him.
“I don’t care about anything else,” Tribble said. “I just want my son back.”
Tribble said her son was wearing a helmet and his moped was registered, though Clements said the moped did not have license plates.